Signal Boost: No. 1 Pacing Tip: How to Unlearn the “Completion Compulsion”

Pushing ourselves to complete a task is the most common pacing mistake most of us make.

“The next step is choosing a different action. Sometimes even with awareness, we can think, “I know I’m running out of energy, but I really want to get this done.” When this happens, it’s because our old programming is tempting us with an unconscious feeling that it will be better for us to continue; there’ll be some kind of reward. Our new knowledge––that it most certainly isn’t better for us to use too much energy––isn’t yet a strong enough neural pathway. Our subconscious doesn’t have as much evidence that it’s better for us to stop than we do for pushing through. In this case, we have to let go of our subconscious feeling that it will be better to keep going and make a conscious choice to do something different.”

This 👆. So hard to make the transition. Sometimes I can do it . Sometimes the sense of psychological satisfaction is too great and I push forward anyway.

Source: No. 1 Pacing Tip: How to Unlearn the “Completion Compulsion” – Prohealth

Reading List: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Image Description: The book cover for “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi. The cover is orange, with illustrations of the heads of two black women, facing in opposite directions, with yellow graphic waves.

Yaa Gyasi‘s novel “Homegoing” is a masterfully written historical novel. It begins in Ghana, and tells the story of the progression of two lines of a family tree over eight generations. One branch stays substantially in Ghana with a complex relationship with power and complicity with the slave trade. The other branch is sold into slavery in the United States. Each chapter is the story of a different family member, their context, dreams and struggles.

There are many very good books about race in the US available, and I have barely made a dent in my reading list. But I those I have read, this makes the short list of books I think should be required for white folks.

I missed the fanfare when it was first published, but it was recently brought to my attention through a conversation on Rachel Cargle’s Instagram. Rachel, and a couple of other black women I follow, have recently shared stories of personal pilgrimage to places like Cape Coast Castle in Ghana. They have shared a window into their experiences of standing in a place where their ancestors were held captive, tortured, treated worse than animals.

One conversation thread that I saw was about the pain black women were experiencing watching white people visit these places as tourists. A personal desire to have their own experience of grief and healing, without having to see people whose ancestors inflicted this violence. A few white women piped up, wanting to have their own experience of insight and understanding. They were encouraged that they could do that without making such a trip, and that one way to do that could be by reading “Homegoing.”

I think as white folks we are incredibly used to thinking that we have a right to be anywhere we want. That all spaces are ours. That is privilege and supremacy. We can learn to respect that some places and experiences are not ours to have. And be grateful when people of color choose to share their stories and perspectives with us to empathize and learn from. I’m grateful for what Yaa Gyasi has shared here. Her story will stay with me for a long time.


Signal Boost: What to Say If Your Friend Isn’t Going to ‘Get Well Soon’

Not everyone with a chronic or lifelong illness is going to ‘get well soon.’ One woman explains what to say and how to be there for someone living with a chronic illness that might not get better.

Source: What to Say If Your Friend Isn’t Going to ‘Get Well Soon

Thanks to a friend for sharing this essay by Alaina Leary. She covers a lot of ground for ways friends and family can be supportive. This is one of my favorite parts:

“Once I realized I wasn’t going to get better, I could finally work toward accepting that — living my best life withinmy body’s limits.Accepting those limits, though, is a grieving process for most of us. But it’s one that’s made easier when we have supportive friends and family by our side.Sometimes it can be easier to throw positive platitudes and well wishes at a situation. Truly empathizing with someone who’s going through a really difficult time — whether that’s a disability or the loss of a loved one or surviving trauma — is hard to do.

Empathizing requires us to sit with someone where they are, even if the place they are is dark and terrifying. Sometimes, it means sitting with the discomfort of knowing you can’t “fix” things.”

Reading List: Me and White Supremacy Workbook by Layla Saad

Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
[Image Description: Title page of “Me and White Supremacy Workbook” by Layla Saad displayed on a tablet. The tablet is sitting on a red notebook with a pen next to it. All are on top of a floral bedspread.]
I just finished my first pass with Layla Saad’sMe and White Supremacy Workbook.” I say first pass, because this book needs to be worked more than once. At its core, the workbook consists of 28 sets of writing prompts developed to explore 28 aspects of ways that white presenting folks can be complicit in white supremacy.  The book demands thoughtfulness, honesty, and a willingness to delve below the surface. A willingness to be uncomfortable with what you find.

The book is designed to be worked on your own, but also provides a method for reviewing and sharing that work in a circle with others. I had the opportunity to do this with a group of women, and we just finished our fifth and last circle together. It was powerful. I learned so much from their reflections on their own lives, some things that were totally different from anything in my life, and some things that I related to but hadn’t yet thought of on my own. I’m really grateful for that experience.

I’m also grateful that I could find a way to have that experience as someone who is housebound and bed-tethered. It is so hard for me to meet new people, and almost unheard of for me to participate in a group experience. I was hopeful that I would be able to join this group of local women via video conference, but instead, the group decided to come to my home each time and to help clean up after each circle. It was such a rich experience for me, and I think it was rich for them.

I’m struggling with the knowledge that being anti-racist requires me to do work in the world, while being someone with severe chronic illness, disability, and major limitations. I’m exploring what this can look like in *my* context in the world, and I’m beginning to find other folks online who are grappling with the same set of questions. If you are someone who is also in that boat, I’d love to hear from you.

The “Me and White Supremacy Workbook” is available to download for free from Layla’s website. While she has intentionally chosen to make this resource available without charge, there is also a PayPal link available to make a donation for her work. For even more ways to connect with her, check her out on Patreon, Instagram, the Good Ancestor podcast, or subscribe to her mailing list.


Reading List: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

My first book of the year: The Library Book by Susan Orlean.

This book tells the story of the Los Angeles Central Library, with a special focus on the fire that closed it for six years (and a bizarre investigation). Interspersed, are lots of sometimes quirky and sometimes useful facts about libraries past, present and future.


I read an ebook version from my local library, the Tompkins County Public Library (I also often get ebooks from the New York Public Library). I found the book generally fascinating, and it reinforced my appreciation for libraries and their roles in a community. It has me thinking more again about how libraries are one of the few public spaces outside capitalism. And renewed my interest in other types of resource sharing systems. Like here in Ithaca we have a toy library. And I’ve long thought it would be great to have a neighborhood resource sharing registry, like how many Bundt pans does a neighborhood need?

Do you use your library? Do you use any other kind of resource sharing?

Reading List: Sick by Porochista Khakpour


Several women published books about women and healthcare this year, and I eagerly read “Doing Harm” by Maya Dusenbery when it came out this spring. I had almost forgotten about “Sick” by Porochista Khakpour until a friend posted a year-end list of books of note, and it was on there under memoirs by women. The eBook happened to be available for download from the NYPL, so I took it out last weekend and gave it a read.

Porochista’s story of her life as an unwell immigrant woman of color is a compelling one. It is full of horror and suffering. And I wish I had been shocked by it.

Instead, I noticed which parts of her story I could relate to. I noticed which pieces sounded like stories I hear in Facebook support groups every day. I noticed which pieces of her story are ensnarled in racism and the lack of financial accessibility to the US health care system. And it just reinforced everything I already know, and everything that Maya Dusenbery pointed out: women, especially poor women and women of color, are screwed.

Relatively early in the book Porochista writes about the unfortunate scenario of being in a hospital:

I’d tried to avoid this hostile world of hospital rooms and doctors’ offices for years, but it haunted me. Here I was again, with something unrelated to Lyme and only two choices—to come clean or to hide, but I knew every decision would have something to do with my diagnosis. It amazed me that even after all these years, with all the time that had passed, as I managed to stay out of the medical system for the most part, and my fluency in their language still being proficient, that I could still be in this position—helpless, crazy-seeming, confusing, inconvenient, out of their norm, a problem. And not one worth the time to be solved.

And I thought, that sounds about right. I avoid the hospital at all costs. I carry a wallet card that explains my health conditions in hopes of preventing someone from calling an ambulance if I pass out in public. If I travel by myself, I wear a medical alert bracelet for the same reason. I’ve heard stories of folks who are treated so badly by their local hospitals when they need emergency access to fluids (not unusual for folks with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) that they have letters on file by their doctors and carry a copy with them and still have no guarantee of getting care when they need it. I regularly see folks on line asking for advice about whether to go to the hospital as they end up losing functions, finding themselves in excruciating pain, and other women counseling them not to go. Weighing the question of the small possibility of relief versus the possibility of being sent home with no care, being accused of “drug seeking,” being abandoned to the waiting room for hours with no one to watch their kids.

This stuff happens every day, folks. Maybe to you or someone you love.

I was also struck by Porochista’s bargaining and negotiations with herself. The years in which she thought it might be easier to “just” chalk up her ill health to addiction instead of admitting she might have Lyme. The ways we can easily deny our realities because they are too inconceivable. Because almost anything might be better that a resignation to a body that you (and your doctors and gurus) cannot heal, and a life you can no longer live. Even after knowing, the adjustment is hard:

It would take a second to remember myself, what I’d become. My full-time job became my health, which was now a mystery illness that was hopelessly complicated by and tangled with addiction to psychiatric medications. I couldn’t believe I was there again, after all the bad experiences I had had. Back to a life of pill bottles and pill cutters and days measured in dosages.

It is a gracious gift, women life Porochista who are allowing us to be voyeurs to her life, because there are thousands, probably millions, of stories that share something of hers. And they need to see the light of day.

Supporting Each Other: Part 3

I think a lot about how people interact with and support each other, especially around the harder things in life. Many of us did not learn the skills necessary to do this well from our families of origin growing up, and they are definitely skills. Luckily, there are some resources out there to help us find our way, and to become better friends to those we care about. This is part 3 of a series exploring some helpful tools.

Part 3

A drawing of two figures seated in a comforting embrace.

Heather Plett’s piece “What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone” is one of the most thoughtful and comprehensive pieces I’ve read on the topic of holding space. When I think about how I can best serve my friends and loved ones, for me it is often about showing up. Being there. Being comfortable with the hard things, with the discomfort. And more and more, it is also about learning to shut up as I’ve mentioned before.

What is holding space? I think of holding space as the act of being fully present with someone and withholding judgement. It incorporates listening and a willingness to be present for whatever is actually happening or actually true. Heather defines “holding space” this way:

It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

Heather identifies eight ways that we can effectively hold space for people. She expands on each idea in her piece, but here they are in brief:

1. Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom.

2. Give people only as much information as they can handle.

3. Don’t take their power away.

4. Keep your own ego out of it.

5. Make them feel safe enough to fail

6. Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness.

7. Create a container for complex emotions, fear, trauma, etc.

8. Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would.

Number 2 is the first place I get tangled up. If I know something, or have information, I have a history or dumping all of it on people and overwhelming them. I think I’m being helpful. Also, I KNOW THINGS ( I justify in my head). But Celeste Headlee reminded me in her book that it is simply too much for people to absorb, under the best of circumstances. When someone is going through hard times, it could be even harder to take in. In a recent situation I practiced catching myself and saying things like, “Hey. If you decide you’d like some advice on x, let me know. I have some resources that might be helpful.” The response I got was, “Thanks, I might want that later. I’ll let you know.” This was a great response, in part because it was such a clear reminder to me that it wasn’t what the person needed or wanted at that time, And my job was to keep listening and offering support for their actual experience and process.

Sometimes that idea that I think I know things, tangles me up in number four, and I have to realize that’s ego. Who am I to think I know better than them? But I’m a subject matter expert! So what? I am not the expert on their life, their situation, their family, their resources, their feelings, their fears, their needs. I am not. And if I can breathe into remembering this, I can again shut up. And listen. And breathe into number eight. It is OK for them to do something that isn’t what I *think* I would do.

Read the piece. It is much more in depth than the numbered list here. What are some things you find key in holding space for others? What do you struggle with? What has helped you when others have done it for you?

Source: What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone

Supporting Each Other: Part 2

I think a lot about how people interact with and support each other, especially around the harder things in life. Many of us did not learn the skills necessary to do this well from our families of origin growing up, and they are definitely skills. Luckily, there are some resources out there to help us find our way, and to become better friends to those we care about. This is part 2 of a series exploring some helpful tools.

Part 2

Celeste Headlee is the author of “We Need to Talk: How to have conversations that matter.” The book is eye-opening, and I appreciated the ways she talks about cultivating curiosity and better ways of listening. published an excerpt from that book as an essay, “Celeste Headlee: The Mistake I Made with My Grieving Friend.”

One thing that really struck me is how often we have each experienced this kind of exchange. One person is having a hard time, and in response, the other person tells their story – often under the pretense of showing they can relate. But relating may not be what’s going on.

When she began to share her raw emotions, I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say, so I defaulted to a subject with which I was comfortable: myself.

I may have been trying to empathize, at least on a conscious level, but what I really did was draw focus away from her anguish and turn the attention to me. She wanted to talk to me about her father, to tell me about the kind of man he was, so I could fully appreciate the magnitude of her loss. Instead, I asked her to stop for a moment and listen to my story about my dad’s tragic death.

Have you done this? I know I have. And once I read this I started paying attention. Because realistically, none of us want to be on the receiving end of it. At best, we don’t feel heard. At worst, we feel shut down. Celeste shares a term with us: conversational narcissism.

Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency to insert oneself into a conversation as “conversational narcissism.” It’s the desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself. It is often subtle and unconscious. Derber writes that conversational narcissism “is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America.

I realized that this was a dynamic I was raised with. In fact, I learned that the only way I could be “heard” (or at least get airtime) was to compete for space in a conversation. And that it was never satisfying and I never felt heard or supported.

There’s a better way, which is to move from a “shift response” to a “support response.” Take a gander at Celeste’s piece, or for a deeper dive, her book.

Source: Celeste Headlee The Mistake I Made with My Grieving Friend